Having cancer may mean you need to make special arrangements when you travel. Here’s how you can be prepared.
1. Getting ready
Planning for your trip means consulting with your medical team first. Let your oncologist and other health care providers know what you are going to go abroad before you book tickets and make hotel reservations.
You may want to let your family members or travel partners sit in on such discussions, so that they are fully aware of your plans, activities and whereabouts for the trip.
2. Advance planning
You should notify your travel facilities of any special requirements. For example, if you are flying, you may want to let the airline know that you may require different food for your meals or if you require special items like oxygen.
Likewise, you may want to notify the hotel of specifics needs – for instance, handicap facilities.
3. Medication on-the-go
Ensure that you have packed enough medication to last the entire trip, plus a little extra, just in case. Speak to your doctor about other drugs that you may need – such as drugs to combat side effects of cancer treatment, motion sickness or traveller’s diarrhoea. Carry a list of all your medications, dosages, and allergies – and bring additional signed prescriptions for back-up.
If you need to bring medical equipment such syringes or IV ports, be aware that these items may be flagged during security screening. Ask your doctor to write an official letter explaining your condition, treatment regimen, and why you require those items.
Some countries may require you to be vaccinated against specific diseases. Check if you are required to be immunised before your holiday as some vaccines are not advisable for people diagnosed with certain cancers, or people who are undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment.
5. Have a go-to list
In case something goes wrong, create a list of resources you may need. These may include addresses and phone numbers of a cancer hospital, doctor, emergency facilities or clinics that specialise in cancer.
6. Check your Insurance
Ensure that your insurance policy covers you when you are travelling. Find out if any medical care you receive abroad can be covered, and whether there are preferred facilities under your insurance plan.
Purchasing short-term insurance and medical evacuation coverage may also be a good idea.
7. During Travel
Focus on enjoying yourself. Travelling can be tiring even for people in the best of health, so make sure you make enough time for rest and relaxation.
Consider scheduling some days in your holiday to do only light activities and bring along snacks that you can eat on-the-go to maintain energy. Stay hydrated by drinking water and avoiding alcohol.
Ask for assistance and do not ignore your symptoms; if you experience a fever or sudden nausea, call for a doctor immediately. Take extra care to prevent infection – wash your hands often – and drink only bottled water and eat only well-cooked food.
Chemotherapy sometimes affects your skin’s sensitivity to the sun so be generous with sunscreen and always wear protective gear outdoors.
Written by Charmaine Ng